The mind of a two year old is an amazing thing. Sometimes I forget my daughter is just two years old. She's so smart, yet she's only two. She can reason, bargain, use logic, yet these are some of the things that remind me she is only two...
This morning, she woke up screaming, running out of her room, shrieking that Eli had stolen her shoe. I had to hug her and console her and rub her back and assure her that her jelly shoes are in fact still in her shoe bucket, and that it was just a dream and that Eli didn't really steal her shoes and then run them over with his lawnmower. She was nearly inconsolable over that.
This morning, she also shrieked when she saw my newly inflated exercise ball sitting in my room. As in, she ran away screaming from it. I had an exercise ball that I purchased in anticipation of her birth, and used it for a few hours while I was laboring at home with her. The exercise ball remained in our house over the course of the next two years, until the tornado blew it away (literally). She was always terrified of that thing, and I never really knew why, or explored why.
So when I bought a new one in anticipation of Baby Sister's birth (any day now, OMG, another post) and blew it up last night to see if it could get things going (spoiler: it didn't), she shrieked when she was it this morning and again, I was stumped. This time, however, I tried to figure out why. I have come to realize that trying to empathize with other people's fear, even if you don't fear the thing yourself, goes a long way. Mostly I've learned that as someone with fears herself (as in... other people doing the empathizing with ME), so I thought I'd give it a whirl with Claire.
At first I thought she was afraid to sit on it and bounce on it... I vaguely recollected that she had tried rolling around on it and had fallen off with the last exercise ball. So I held her hands as she sat on it and bounced. That wasn't really the issue, though. She didn't seem to mind that part. So I went about my morning, and was drying my hair when she ran into the bathroom, shrieking. "I pushed the ball down the hall and it bumped into the wall......" Big blue eyes staring back at me, huge, full of fear. If I was feeling lazy, this is where I'd typically say (in my head) "uhhh OKAY" and answer her with a "Uh-huh Honey... okay..."
But this morning I set down the hair dryer and went to investigate with her. She barely wanted to peek her head around the corner, lest she see the scary exercise ball. "See? It's down there, on the wall..." she said. "It's gonna get me."
I started to put two and two together. She had rolled the ball (or kicked it?) down the long hallway, and it bumped into the wall and probably bounced around off the walls, perhaps rolling back towards her. I took the ball and showed her that if you kick the ball into the wall, it bounces back and rolls back toward you. A mini physics lesson, if you will.
I tried showing it to her a couple of times, lightly pushing it into the wall and explaining "See? It's bouncing back now and rolling toward me. But it's just a ball, it's not alive, it's not coming to get me, it's just rolling." And it clicked. All along she thought the ball was coming to get her. Yes, she's crazy smart, and can school me in many different ways, but sometimes I'm reminded that she's only two and she doesn't know everything. And it's a pretty neat feeling to see her learning before your own two eyes.
[Note: this was written a couple months ago, but was sitting as a draft, never published. I'm posting it for posterity's sake.]